Tom gives a rousing talk on why the North should be independent and free of the shackles of Westminster! Bettakultcha is proud to be a place where you can speak freely, and Tom takes full advantage.
Tom’s talk has had quite an impact, so far it’s had over 900 views. Tom wrote a post about how the presentation has been received and the discussions it’s sparked.
When Richard told me that the next Bettakultcha event would have the theme ‘Is the North going South’ I knew that the pressure would be on me to produce something interesting. This is because I can often be found speaking about devolution, how too much is controlled in Whitehall, and talking-up the North and Leeds in particular.
I decided from the outset that I didn’t want to make this into an anti-London presentation, but something which actually celebrated the North (something we don’t hear or do often enough). So in my planning and preparation I thought a lot about what it was that makes the North of England so great, and was reminded of so much that I had forgotten and some things I never even knew!
All that got me thinking about what it would actually look like if the North were a country, and after thinking about what the flag could be, and the capital (it’s Leeds, obviously) and the currency, I saw that this might actually make a good Bettakultcha presentation. I am sure some people who have seen it disagreed with some of my selections, but hopefully people understood the spirit of it and didn’t read too much into the specifics.
Although I thought it might be quite interesting, I didn’t really think that it would generate the kind of reach and comments that it has received since. It was mentioned in a column in the YEP – where I was portrayed unflatteringly as ‘bounding’ onto stage as if at a local talent night. There was also a good amount of twitter discussion and I have had people asking me in meetings and at events about some of the stats that I quoted.
Within Leeds City Council we posted it onto our internal staff website in place of my usual video blog spot, which produced a lot more comments and views than it does normally – and surprisingly almost all positive ones at that – included a debate into which Game of Thrones character I am most similar to, Ned Stark, the King of the North, or Littlefinger, the scheming advisor (personally I am not keen on either of those comparisons).
These reactions I think prove that devolution is something people are interested in. It also shows that, although we don’t like showing off in the North, we have got a lot to shout about. Perhaps there is a challenge here about the kind of language we use in the devolution debate, so it’s not full of dry, technocratic words. It can actually be about celebrating how good we are and saying that we think we can do things even better if we have the chance. It doesn’t mean creating a breakaway state, but we should still be shouting out “free the North!”